37 answers

4 Year Old Behavior

I am wondering if any of you have experienced some of these characteristics with your 4 year old (I have a boy).
He can't stand tags in his clothing, socks are too tight, pants are too tight (even though they are not.....), no long sleeve shirts (can't stand them!). Behaviors he has are: tantrums....screaming, yelling, and hitting the bedroom door...etc... when we are transitioning him from one thing to the next...and he is not happy about the next event. We also are hearing from others that he is bugging other kids who are next to him (by touching, touching, touching) in pre-school and in church settings. He is not a naughty boy all the time, but I am just wondering if you all have kido-s like this? Is this normal 4 year old stuff.....or? We have been using a sticker behavior chart and have been having great success....however the outbursts-tantrums and bugging others has not decreased. Thanks so much for your thought! :)

2 moms found this helpful

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Maybe a sensory thing? My son has some sensory problems and he has fits as well. He is now almost seven. I keep a list of activities to re-route my kids from one thing to another and never, never have on anything, such as TV or stereo. I have to hear them at all times so I know when he is getting ready to blow.

L.

Hi T.,
I have a five year old girl and she recently went through what I call a "phase" regarding the socks and the long sleeves and other clothes issues and it drove me insane especially because I work full time and drop her off at preschool in the morning on the way to work. Personally, I think it is a phase and with my daughter I believe that it was more acute or severe when she was tired or had not had a nap,I also really think that this is a control issue with her. When my daughter was going through the "phase" she kept telling me that the pants were "too stretchy" and "too tight" which made me laugh to myself as it was all of sudden, after wearing the same things forever now they are "tight" or "stretchy". I handled it by trying not to make a big deal out of it and appeasing her by being patient and allowing her to wear short sleeves if there was a shirt readily available. I think it is normal and is just something they go through. As far as the "bugging" thing, my daughter does it to me, I think it is an attention thing and she will do it to the point where I have told her ten times to please stop it as she pokes me or touches me. I then use my "super nanny" technique where I get down to her level and talk to her about it and why it is not nice. Not to be redundant, but I think they are all phases they go through and it is about control and attention. Ages 4 and 5 are difficult because they are becoming so independent yet they have little control over things and this is how they test the waters. Hang in there. I hope this helps.

I have a nephew who at right about the same age went thru the clothing issues as well as tantrums. He was diagnosed with some mild sensory integration issues and had some, I believe, occupational therapy to overcome it. He had issues with seasons -changing from long pants to shorts, t-shirts to sweaters, sandals to gym shoes, etc. He is now 12 years old and completely outgrown the behaviors - still will throw a tantrum or two - but nothing out of the ordinary.

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Hi T.-

From what you have described, your son may have sensory processing disorder. This is when a person's nervous system does not perceive input from the senses in a normal way. Some children are extremely sensitive, some extremely underresponsive to stimuli, and other seek out lots of stimuli, as if they can't get enough. There are varying degrees of spd, and many kids have combinations of both. These kids have major problems with transitions, and can seem oversensitive to the point of tantrums. Both my children have this, although my daughter to a lesser degree than my son. Find an occupational therapist trained in this disorder, and have your son evaluated. They will give you a questionaire about your son's behaviors. I don't know what area you live in, otherwise I might be able to recommend one.

Some books on this disorder are: Out of Sync Child, Sensational Kids, The Sensory Sensitive Child. A good therapist can help a lot. Even though your son is 4, don't count on the school district's OT to have a clue. Some school OTs are well-versed, and knowledgeable, but others are not, and don't even recognize this disorder. Please let me know if you need anything else, and good luck. It's not easy to live with a child with this, but once it's recognized, and you get some help and strategies, it makes life MUCH better.

Just wanted to add something after reading the other responses: Your son can have sensory processing disorder without having autism or Asperger's. It often is seen in combination with other disorders as well, like Down's syndrome and cerebral palsey. So don't get worried about that yet. ALSO, there are many pediatricians who don't know about this disorder, so don't leave it up to your physician. I've heard too many stories about parents KNOWING something was wrong with their child, and the pediatrician refuting them. In the end, every parent I talked to turned out to be right! I'm a teacher, and I have a student in first grade who is obviously Aspergers, but the pediatrician has never mentioned one word to his parents.

1 mom found this helpful

Hello T.. First off I want to apologize for all the other mothers going right for your son having some kind of disorder or issue.

I might be wrong and he very well may have one of the many medical issues those other mothers listed, but I put myself in your shoes, and reading all 22 what I'd call negative responses would make me very sad. And I'm apologizing for them if you felt that way.

A lot of the things you mentioned clothes issues; My son too, I just figure my son's picky. and he'd get over it which he has. The tag thing I totally understand I don't like tags either; their itchy! He's 5 by the way. The tantrums; he still has when he doesn't get his way;power struggles. The yelling, hitting people or throwing things only happens when he's really upset. Usually talking to him to calm him and trying to reason with him works. He is having some issues at preschool as well similar to your son. Eating other peoples food, drinking their drinks, and not keeping his hands to himself. Which he denies all of it. When I've packed him his own drink, and food. I still can't figure that one out. And he just won't sit still for 5 minutes, we're working on that at home.

I not for one minute thought or will think that my son has any "issue" or "disorder". He's just a normal preschooler adapting to the new rules, environment, people, etc.. Maybe I've failed him by not teaching him things I should have previously, but I feel he's normal. I'm the only one (besides maybe grandma) that truly understands what kind of person he is, and where he's coming from (I think I know what he might've been thinking when he was drinking someone else's drink). And it was innocent, I'm sure.

He sounds VERY similar to my 4 year old son! My son has Autism, and has been in early intervention programs since he was 2, so we are working past most of that stuff.
I would talk to your pediatrician, and look into getting him screen before things get worse. Even if it's nothing, it is worth checking into!

Hi T.,

The first part of your post sounds like you were describing my daughter as a 3 and 4 year old! However, she did not go through a period of touching others in school/church settings.
She is now 5 and the clothing issues are getting much better. What worked for me best was...... making compromises/meeting her in the middle with issues regarding clothes, and knowing I did not have to win every battle. For example, I would let her wear a short sleeve shirt sometimes even if it was cold outside. (She would still have to wear a coat outside of course.) As long as there is heat in a building, he will be fine wearing short sleeves. Some issues might go away and actually reverse itself. For example, my daughter would not wear turtlenecks when she reached 3. So I gave up and said to myself.... don't waste your money on anymore turtlenecks. Now.... she'll pick out her clothes and come downstairs wearing a turtleneck. I actually told her last week that she might want to take it off because it was going to be pretty warm outside!

It's easy to deal with the tags..... just cut them off or buy clothes that are tagless. ( I am seeing more of that.) I cannot stand tags myself, and I don't like long sleeves that are too tight around my upper arm. So I can kind of feel for my daughter.

Find the clothes that your son does like and buy many in different colors. Elastic pants/shorts work best for my daughter because there are no buttons near her tummy and because they are so soft. Loose sleeved short sleeves work best for her too. So I know to stay away from any short sleeved shirts that she can actually feel wrapped around her arm.

Sticker charts work better for her now that she is getting older. What really helps is that she gets to pick out the reward from the dollar store. We put these items in a "treasure chest" and on Sundays, if she has earned enough happy faces, she gets to pick out something from the chest. She is also learning what is worth a dollar and what is not. She has even said.... mommy I don't think I want this because it looks like it could break easily.

She is happy it is getting warmer because she will be able to wear sandals without socks!

She will sometimes complain that it is too bright for her, too. Our pediatrician said her eyes were fine. She is just a bit sensitive in this area, as well.

Things are much better around here lately. Oh and she does have a twin brother who does not have any of these issues. Take care and good luck!

Joy

Hi T.,
My response is two part. First, I am so glad to read your question. I, too have a son that will be 4 at the end of this month. For the past several months he has been exhibiting the very same behaviors - except for the tag thing which we went through at age 2. So, it's very nice to know that other boys are doing the these things also.

Second, I am a special ed school social worker in a pre-k through 8 building. What I have learned from working with kids and families is that we all tend to want to label every behavior and give every kids some sort or diagnosis. My advice to you is to take a step back and look at your son objectively. He's just a boy. My friends who only have girls don't understand that boys are so different. My daughter(2) hasn't gone through hardly any of the same stages as my son. Relax. He'll most likely be fine, though we're not sure sometimes if we'll survive, right?

It sounds to me he might have some kind of PDD or something else on the autism spectrum. You might want to disscuss this with your docter. My son has PDD. One of his Kindergarden teachers were describing the same things. He did not know about personal space. He was having problems with social interaction. Does your son get stuck on one issue and not seem to let it go. I mean for my son it is like when he stresses out he becomes fixed on one certain thin. WHen he was littler it was boxes and robots. he had to have the same thing for breakfeast made the same way every morning. I hope this helps if you have anymore questions please feel free to email me at ____@____.com

Try not to see this as "naughty boy" stuff, but rather as sensory issues that he needs your help with. It is possible that he has more serious sensory issues as others have referred to, or that these are just preferences that he will outgrow. My kids outgrew those sorts of things, other kids do not. In any case, try talking to him about the challenges he faces, like explain to him what transitions are coming up and help him think of a plan to make it easier for him. Or explain, without judging him, why other kids might not like being touched, and ask him for ideas on other things he can do instead that might not bug people. He may have some compulsions that need some sort of release, but you can help him by offering your support in developing alternative ideas.

Hi T.

I too have a almost 4 year old that has a lot of the same characteristics and like some of the other moms have had my son tested and he is seeing an OT and speech at pre-school and this is not enough it has taken me over 2 years to get my child evaluated by a developmental pediatrician as there are long waiting lists.

Hope all of these resources help you. Keep discussing with your pediatrician and if you get nowhere with them start asking others for numbers for developmental pediatricians.

Good luck.

This reminds me of my son many years ago. He is now 20 and a chemistry major on the deans list at his university, so there is light at the end of the tunnel. I would check into the possibility of sensory integration issues. I know my son was overly sensitive to touch and sound in particular. Over the years, he did learn to deal with it, however, now I think there are treatment procedures for children with sensory integration issues. Perhaps you son would benefit.

K.

With the way you are explaining your son's behavior have you ever had him diagnosed with ADD, Asbergers, Autism. The way you speak of him are like bells going off for me. This was how my grandson was at 3 and thats what they found the problem was. I would definetly have him seen by a pediatrician and find out if this is the problem so you may get some help.
Good luck and I wish you well.

Maybe a sensory thing? My son has some sensory problems and he has fits as well. He is now almost seven. I keep a list of activities to re-route my kids from one thing to another and never, never have on anything, such as TV or stereo. I have to hear them at all times so I know when he is getting ready to blow.

L.

Hi T.

Does he have a rash? Is he allergic to anything? Has he had any recent trauma? Do you think he is angry about anything?

My bachelors is in psychology and i work in a behavioral health facility. Have a little knowledge.

It sounds like it could be alot of things-- or nothing.

Why don't you start out with a really thorough physical checkup? Also check some books out at the library.

God bless.

L. K.

T.,

I dont know about the sensory thing, my nephew is 5 and he can not stand tags, never could, his brother who is now 2 has his mom remove all tags. The older one will always wear two shirts. No matter how hot it is. Something that he feels he likes to do. As for sock half the time these boy dont want them on and when they are on the beg to take them off.

I have many nephews and nieces and they all have gone through phases about wearing, not wearing. It is a growing spot within the childrens lives.

As for his tantrums, all children have them. Even as they get old my pre-teen nieces are at it often. Not getting their way or someone has something kool at school and she has to have it to.

Children are all different but then have many same characteristics. I belive that it is all a part of growing up. Wait til your children hit the teens man I have been through it 3 times all girls. I survived.

J.
www.noahbyjodi.com

T.,

The tag/clothing this is a classic "sensory" issue. It could be a sensory disorder, or it could be a symptom of ADD. I would recommend getting him tested - talk to your ped. This doesn't mean you have to medicate him - there are other therpies or holistic options available. The best thing is to get him tested and diagnosed early so that that he and you can learn to deal with the behavior in a way that works.

Good luck!
L.

I have a niece who is about to turn 5, and she has a similar problem with clothes - tags hurt, she can't wear turtlenecks, winter coats always bother her, hates jeans, socks and shoes have to be on just right, etc. She also does have tantrums (and my sister uses the sticker chart, too). So, I guess you're not alone at least - not sure if it's normal.

I have to cut every single tag out of my son's clothing before he will wear them. He will not wear shoes with laces because they touch his leg. This all seemed to come from no where. So sister, you are not alone

Hi, T.. You know that there is something off in your child: not just your education, your training, and your experience as a teacher tell you this, but your instincts as a mother. LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS. You know that his father doesn't want to hear that there is anything wrong with his spitting image, and your friends don't want to hurt your feelings by being honest. Start with your pediatrician for referrals, and DON'T STOP until you get the right diagnosis - and the right help - for your child. Pull your head out of the sand and hold it up high, and GET TO IT NOW for all your sakes. good luck, A.

Hi T.,

Your son's adversion to tags, long sleeves, pants, etc. is not unusual and neither is his social interaction with others. When my son was 3 years old I was at my wits end with his behavior and I contacted Tuesday's Child, http://www.tuesdayschildchicago.org.
Please do not be alarmed by the responses suggesting ADD, ADHD and Autism, it is entirely possible that you son does not suffer from any of these. People were constantly suggesting my son was ADD or ADHD, I had him tested and he is neither of these.

There are many reasons for his sensory issues, it could be as simple as the laundry detergent you are using is slightly irritating your son's skin, i.e., why he has a problem only with material that is tight on his skin. There could be many reasons for his social interactions also. I learned SO much about not only my son, but all kids through Tuesday's Child and my son really enjoyed going with me. Parents go to a group session and then break up into smaller groups and the children all play together in another room, it's like a preschool atmosphere.

I also have information about non-irritating laundry detergent if you are interested.

Best of Luck to you!

J. Penfield
www.teamwahu.com
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I have a nephew who at right about the same age went thru the clothing issues as well as tantrums. He was diagnosed with some mild sensory integration issues and had some, I believe, occupational therapy to overcome it. He had issues with seasons -changing from long pants to shorts, t-shirts to sweaters, sandals to gym shoes, etc. He is now 12 years old and completely outgrown the behaviors - still will throw a tantrum or two - but nothing out of the ordinary.

sounds like it could be a sensory issue. My son has some of the same issues. I would call the local school system & have him tested by an OT. My son saw an OT for 2 years - you would not believe the changes. He has since tested out & just receives Speech & is in a preschool class. Testing is free - it couldn't hurt & it may put you at ease.

sounds like a sensory thing. could be an autism spectrum disorder. have you discussed these behaviors with your pediatrician?

T.,

I know how frustrating it is to deal with this behavior. My daughter (Tracy,who is now
30) behaved in a similar way. The worst thing
for her to wear was a bathing suit-which she would complain about the "bugs" in her suit.
She was extremely sensitive to fabrics, food, light, heat as well as being an emotionally sensitive soul. Tried to keep her in natural type fabrics-cotton if possible. She did eventually outgrow most of the sensitivities.
The clothing tags are a nuisance to many people.

M. G

Sounds like he might have autism? I would go online and read about it and I would also make an appointment with his doctor. There are good doctors out there who only see patients with autism.

Good luck and Gods Blessing to you
D.

Have you had your son tested to see if he is on the Autism spectrum? Most of the signs you have described are atypical behaviors I also believe that Autism is not a issue or disorder but just a word and i have seen that a lot of responses have told you to check out the out of sync child but I also think if the diagnosis do turn out to be on the spectrum then pick up the book ten things that every child with autism wishes you knew. Keep in mind it affect 1 in 166 and boys more often than girls it know no color no race. my son by looking at him seems normal up until he has a behavior and throws something etc. I think that if in your gut you feel something go with it. i would also reccommmened visiting you care provider to see the behaviors in action. A lot of people have mention Autism but it is more than just "bad behavior" and a few sensory issues there is a lot more signs and that is even with a high functionining child like mine. please feel free to contact me I am always willing to talk or help in any way I can. -myangelwith autism

At some level, I still think must of this is within normal range for 4 year old boys. All of my friends with boys in this age group (mine is 6) are complaining of variations on this theme. That said, there's a growing school of thought around something called sensory integration disfunction that refers to difficulty processing different kinds of neurological input. Some are oversensitive, some are undersensitive...sometimes a little of both depending on the input. A lot of what you described has happened with my son. He can't stand to wear button down shirts because the buttons bother him, the seams in his socks make him crazy, loud noises make him completely unglued (he can't bear auto-flush toilets, for example). In any event, you might check out the book "The Out of Sync Child" and/or seek an evaluation from an Occupational or Behavioral Therapist specializing in sensory integration disorder.

Good luck and try to have as much patience as you can and know that your little boy is working hard too.

Hi T.!
I know it's been a while since you've posted about your son's behavior, but I just signed up on mamasource.
I am relieved to hear my son is not the only difficult one - and that's exactly what I leave it at - difficult. No disease, no disorder, just being a growing boy.
My son HATES socks - it was an issue EVERY morning with socks, and the only thing that solved it? Buying all sorts of different socks until we found the ones that didn't bother him. Before, he would try on about 10 pair every day to find the one that fit "perfectly."
As for tags on shirts - my nephew had that issue - so, all tags were cut off all shirts!
All in all, it's more than likely just a phase. Although it's a constant test of my patience, I've learned to accept it.
For me, I've found that enrolling in sports (we started football and teeball at age 4) helped a lot - we'll be starting our third year of football this year, and we are trying soccer this year instead of teeball. For my son, it gives him a positive way to get out his "energy" in a positive way.

This is not a bad or boy behavior It sounds like a sensory issue start by looking up sensory issues on the internet go
back to when he was a baby and just
write down anything that seems different to you or your husband about the pregency/birth and from then on.
It is not a big deal for him at all it is more of a deal for us as parents it just changes the way you may have to do things with him it becomes a life style. I have a son like this and I was shocked when I made my list and then went on line and found out all these things were normal for him as they get older then tend to deal with things like tags and stuff better or they learn just to take them out themselves.
The touching thing comes and goes I have learned with my son that is the best way for him to learn.if he is not one with the thing or person he doesn't connect or learn well. I have sooo much more I could write but that would be overload. You need to look into it and go with the flow.
OH I have to add in about the transition thing we can NEVER surprise our son or not tell him where or what we are going to be doing and this has been forever he gets so flustered that he has actually had asthma attacks hoildays are the worst. Just always let your son know way ahead about what is going to be happening and if it is to big of a deal just don't do it.

T.-

My nephew was the same way- Especially with buttons on his shirt! He was diagnosed with Asbergers (a type of Autism) I would talk to your family doctor and get their thoughts- It could be nothing at all!

Good Luck!

T.,
My daughter has the same sensory issues. Tags are the worst, but she previously had issues with balance (going down stairs)and was not speaking at the age of 2. She was tested and her sensory issues were not her biggest issue, but the did say that they were common in kids with other developmental delays like her speech delay.
I am happy to say, she just turned 4, she speaks better than other 4 yo kids she knows and her balance issues are gone. The tag issue remains, but I can definately live with that. Her speech therapy and occupational therapy worked miracles with her. I am so grateful for all that was done for her.

So, don't be afraid to get your son tested. It may be the best thing you ever do for him.

Sounds like he has some sensory issues. I suggest that you read the book The Out-of-Sync Child. My child has issues like that and he is currently six years old. I would talk to your son's pediatrician and get him to recommend a developmental pediatrician. By the way, sticker charts work for my son also. It helps to have a simple kind of reward for a certain amount of stickers. Good luck.
K.

I have a 3 1/2 year old boy, and have been seeing some of this lately too - hates tags in shirts, pants are too tight, etc. The behavior issues come & go. I tend to be less reactionary than most parents & try to wait things out - see if it's just a phase. I think it's mostly "pre-school boy stuff" - they want to be in control of everything. I would not be paranoid about autism, but I'm not a worryer. However, a call to your pediatrician/family doctor certainly couldn't hurt if you are really concerned. Good luck!

My sister-in-law gave me a book called "Raising your Spirited Child" which I have recently begun reading. I think you might want to pick up a copy as they describe the 'spirited' child as a child who is simply MORE of everything - more sensitive to how things feel (like tags on clothes), more figidy than the average kid, more vocal about their likes and dislikes, etc. It's been pretty interesting so far, and has given me some tips on how to handle my spirited child by understanding her way of thinking and feeling. Good luck!

I have heard of something to do with the senses. Try calling First Steps. They are the ones who told me about it.

Hi T.,

It sounds like he may be struggling with some sensory issues....the new buzz word is sensory integration disorder...both my nephews struggle with this a bit...My one nephew couldn't stand tags or the seams in his socks...he also struggled with transitions....He's 9 now, and still struggles a bit but is doing a lot better....My other nephew is 19 months old and is receiving some therapies to help with speech and sensory issues......there are a lot of good books out there...I also was a first grade teacher but now I stay at home with my 20 month old daughter...I had several kids who struggled with sensory issues and with a few modifications to their schedule and their personal area (desk) they did very well....there's several books out there about sensory stuff....

If you want more info. I can connect you with my sister-in-law.
M.

Hi T.,
I have a five year old girl and she recently went through what I call a "phase" regarding the socks and the long sleeves and other clothes issues and it drove me insane especially because I work full time and drop her off at preschool in the morning on the way to work. Personally, I think it is a phase and with my daughter I believe that it was more acute or severe when she was tired or had not had a nap,I also really think that this is a control issue with her. When my daughter was going through the "phase" she kept telling me that the pants were "too stretchy" and "too tight" which made me laugh to myself as it was all of sudden, after wearing the same things forever now they are "tight" or "stretchy". I handled it by trying not to make a big deal out of it and appeasing her by being patient and allowing her to wear short sleeves if there was a shirt readily available. I think it is normal and is just something they go through. As far as the "bugging" thing, my daughter does it to me, I think it is an attention thing and she will do it to the point where I have told her ten times to please stop it as she pokes me or touches me. I then use my "super nanny" technique where I get down to her level and talk to her about it and why it is not nice. Not to be redundant, but I think they are all phases they go through and it is about control and attention. Ages 4 and 5 are difficult because they are becoming so independent yet they have little control over things and this is how they test the waters. Hang in there. I hope this helps.

I have a son that will be 4 on the 8th. He is special needs and goes to HopeWall in Aurora for preschool. The clothes thing, and the bothering other kids, he does not do, but the tantrums, hitting the door, hitting us screaming, and I mean piercing screaming he does do and it is so hard sometimes although, he has gotten better. And with moving him from one thing to the next, if he is not ready to stop, UGH! Look out. That has gotten better too. This past week was spring break and it was hard. He does not do good with that, as many special needs kids dont. Erik is almost 4, but more like a 2 year old really. He is about 2 years delayed.

S. Bailey CLD
Aurora
www.tendermomentsdoula.com

Hey there, I know how you feel! I have two sons one 4 and one 2. They are just so different from girls! My son went through the tag thing for about 6 months and then moved on. I just started letting him watch me cut the tags out of his shirts before he wore them, and that satisfied him. Eventually all the tags were gone in his shirts and he forgot about it being an issue. Now I can buy him new shirts with tags and he never even notices them! As for the touching both of my sons do that to one another until they get attention from the other, or from me.
They definately both throw tantrums now and then, but I guess that is why they call it the terrible twos, and beyond....? Hang in there!

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